Themes in Seth Klein’s Presentation and Discussion with The Toronto Branch of the World Federalist Movement of Canada on April 12th, 2022.
Based on his recent book A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency
The Emergency: The IPCC reports we are living on borrowed time. The UN Secretary General calls state leaders “liars” for taking insufficient action on the climate emergency. Canada is a laggard amongst the G7 with GHG emissions that have not changed in 18 years. The past year saw: a “heat dome” killing 600 people in a week, wildfires destroying towns, “atmospheric river” floods that killed 600,000 farm animals and created much destruction. Our two years of pandemic disruption was nothing compared to what will happen with the climate emergency. We have not yet seen upsets to our food and water supplies, or widely experienced how heat stress messes with the brain. It will be uncomfortable for civilization, and we could become ungovernable.
Historical Reflections: In 1938 income disparity was higher than today, and there were Nazi sympathizers. There was little expectation that the Prime Minister could do great things. There was initially denial of a problem, until the fall of France to Germany. Then Canada came together: 10% of its people enlisted in the military, another 10% converted to war manufacturing, increased profits were taxed 100%, family allowance was introduced. People pulled together (generally) knowing that the load was being shared by all. Rationing became acceptable as it was universal, removing fear of neighbours getting more. American car manufacturers were ordered to convert to military production. The Marsh Report envisioned a more fair post-war society so people could see what they were fighting for.
Similarly, there was no reaction to Covid-19 until dramatic things happened like the closing of the NBA, or the Prime Minister solemnly addressing the nation daily from his front porch. Business and personal support programs that never would have been dreamt of came into place very rapidly.
Emergencies start with denial of the truth until multiple factors shift governments into emergency mode, enabling true transformation.
Analysis: Governments are still in denial of climate change, given the recent approval of the Baie du Nord offshore oil project and the major budgetary offer of tax relief for oil industry carbon capture projects. However, in the past we have mobilized to fight emergencies, once they have happened. But we are not proactive in taking the necessary actions to avert emergencies, such as the long simmering climate crisis, or the Russia-Ukraine struggle. Now we need leadership to invite us all to face the emergency together in a “Green New Deal.” It won’t ask us to be killed in the army, or be confined to our homes. Properly implemented it will satisfy everyone’s need to feel they are part of the solution.
Markers of a government addressing an emergency (with some suggested actions):
- Governments spend what it takes to get the job done.
- Governments create new institutions. (A ‘Climate Emergency Just Transition Transfer’ amongst provinces, based on GHG emissions, funding a ‘Just Transition Agency’ representing all parts of society to direct bold GHG reduction and transition projects in each province.)
- Governments shift from voluntary to mandatory requirements. (Taxing, rationing. Design cities that don’t need cars. Remove countries’ fears of losing global markets by a ‘Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty,’ sanctioning laggards not complying with agreed fossil fuel reduction plans.)
- Governments tell the truth. (Journalists need to find and feature the truth, so that people realize burning of oil and gas is the problem. Advertising of fossil-fuel-using products should be banned or at least restricted to the truth about their impacts.)
- Nobody is left behind. (Income supports and special programs for people and businesses in transition. Every sector needs a just path to zero, with carrots (transition funds) and sticks (mandates). Excess profit taxes to signal there is no profiteering and that “we are all in it together.”)